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About the East Lawn

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The East Lawn is an unbroken expanse of grass stretching from the entrance of the house southeast to the R street wall. In her Plant Book for Dumbarton Oaks, Beatrix Farrand called the East Lawn “one of the loveliest of the features of Dumbarton Oaks in its freedom from detail” (p. 20). To frame the open lawn, Farrand planned perimeter plantings chosen for their size and proportion, with an emphasis on a natural effect.

The trees, shrubs, and vines that she placed along the verge of the East Lawn lengthened perspective when viewed from the house. The plantings along the R street wall also served as a screen between the road and the estate.  This thick screen of greenery, sometimes called the Wilderness, heavily features evergreens to provide privacy year round. Among the trees in this screen, the Japanese maple and the sprawling Katsura tree serve as visual focal points and add consistency to the design of the East Lawn over the years; these trees have been in place since before Robert and Mildred Bliss purchased Dumbarton Oaks.

The major design feature of this garden area has always been the simplicity of the large, open lawn. However, a few smaller areas of unique design appear within the greater garden area of the East Lawn. Some of these plantings, like the Terrior Column and Enclosure, are now considered separate spaces. Others, like the Wilderness, have blended into the overall design and lost their distinct name. Cockylocky (Cocky-Locky) and the Gothic Garden are examples of large boxwood-heavy designs that became overgrown and were eventually removed or redesigned.  The former site of the Gothic Garden is now home to a seating area and water feature dedicated to former Dumbarton Oaks Director Angeliki Laiou, informally called “Angeliki’s Garden.”